Does Accreditation Matter?

It’s not only your child who gets evaluated in the private-school system. Schools themselves get put through the wringer on a regular basis.

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The accreditation seal is an important factor to consider when applying to private schools, says the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools’ executive director, Robert Witt, because it assures parents that the school adheres to the highest values and best professional practices. 

“When parents see the seal, they are guaranteed that the school means business,” says Witt.

The largest accrediting body in Hawaii is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, known to most as WASC. WASC works with the HAIS to accredit many of the state’s private schools. HAIS also works with accrediting state authorities, such as Hawaii Catholic Schools, as well as other regional authorities, like the Western Catholic Educational Association.

Beyond a basic license to operate, accredited schools have to be evaluated every few years. They do what’s called a self-study and then are audited by an outside accrediting committee. If a school isn’t approved by the committee, it can be denied accreditation.

“Accredited schools agree to a comprehensive set of standards which define good schools,” says Witt. “In addition, these standards are used to drive ongoing institutional change and improvement. Because the school must develop an action plan for the future, you can be sure that at whatever level the school is today, it will be better tomorrow.”

Another reason to look for the accredited mark is to facilitate your child’s college application process. It’s not easy for students from unaccredited schools to get accepted into colleges and universities. “You need to take more steps to show that you’ve had a comprehensive education,” says Witt. Student transcripts are stamped with a school’s accreditation body, an immediate sign to college admissions officials.

How do you know if the schools to which you’re applying are accredited or not? See our comprehensive Guide to Hawaii Private Schools, starting on page PSG56. We’ve noted all the schools that are accredited and their accreditation bodies. Of course, the guide will look like an alphabet soup of acronyms, but here’s a list of primary ones:

A Key to Hawaii Private School Accreditations

AACS – American Association of Christian Schools. National Christian accreditation body with member schools in all but four states.
ACSI – Association of Christian Schools International. Recognized by the National Council for Private School Accreditation. Accredits Christian schools from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
AMS – American Montessori Society.
AWSNA – Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.
Carden Educational Foundation –  Accreditation through a not-for-profit, national foundation based on the Carden Method.
CARF – Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
HAIS – Hawaii Association of Independent Schools. Local umbrella organization that is part of the National Association of Independent Schools.
NADCA – North American Division Commission on Accreditation. Seventh-day Adventist accreditation organization.
NAEYC – National Association for the Education of Young Children. National association of early childhood educators. Accredits preschool to third-grade programs, including childcare and before- and after-school programs.
NLSA – National Lutheran School Accreditation. Nationwide accrediting body for Lutheran schools.
U.S. Dept. of Labor – Accreditation overseen by U.S. Department of Labor for national Job Corps centers. Job Corps educates and trains low-income young people.
WASC – Western Association of Schools and Colleges. One of six regional accrediting associations for schools and colleges. WASC covers California, Hawaii, other Pacific Basin areas and East Asia.
WCEA – Western Catholic Education Association. Accredits Hawaii Catholic Schools.